Panel Report: “Urban Religion in Historical Perspective” at the European Academy of Religion Annual Conference Bologna, March 4, 2019
Organizers: Jörg Rüpke, Cristiana Facchini
The panel, organised by Cristiana Facchini and Jörg Rüpke, explored perspectives on urban religion in different epochs. The Lived Religion approach to premodern religion, as developed at the Max Weber Centre for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies, has highlighted the importance of different types of self-world-relations as defined by local spatial and social contexts, specified through materiality and communication and framed by social imaginaries and knowledge. These contexts range from domestic to imperial and global contexts. One of the most important aspects on this scale is the urban, which has proven to be of paramount importance for the past century and today’s world, in which for the first time the majority of humans are seen as living in cities.
The role of religion in creating spatial, temporal and social order in cities has been an important topic in research from ceremonial centres and cities of Meso- and South America to Near Eastern and ancient Mediterranean, but also Chinese, Indian and medieval European cities. A growing number of inhabitants and the increased density of interaction seem to have prompted (and enabled) processes of institutionalisation and the formulation of norms. Referring to non-human agents beyond the human agents in a given situation contributed to organise economic exchange and redistribution. Furthermore, it has been functional in defining property rights as well as rights of political participation. Vice versa, citizenship could regulate access to gods, as shown by the choice of words like “synagogue” and “ekklesia”, which refer first of all to voting assemblies. Historical research has reconstructed such functions for many instances and recent sociological research, above all research on migration, has consequently inquired into processes of inclusion and exclusion, tolerance and competition caused or experienced by immigrating minorities proffering different or identical religious identities.
The papers in this panel supposed that any modelling that is limiting religion to a tool of government and administration on the one side and marginal groups on the other is mistaken. For the individual actor urban settlements present an enormously complex environment of constraints and affordances. Previous sacralisations and contemporary religious practices are part of that. It is the interplay of such acting and aspiring within urban space and as creating urban space that was addressed. The contributions included:
- Jörg Rüpke (Max Weber Centre, University of Erfurt): Religion and urban space
- Cristiana Facchini (Alma mater studiorum, Università di Bologna): The city and the sea: Remarks on religious diversity, port cities, and the sea
- Emiliano Urciuoli (Max Weber Centre, University of Erfurt): Citifying Jesus in Imperial Rome (2nd-5th CE)
- Margret Helen Freeman (University of Copenhagen): “A saintly place for the education of scholars:” The Changing Face of Islamic Identity & Architecture in Mamluk Cairo
- Vincenzo Lavenia (Alma mater studiorum, Università di Bologna): Religion(s) in the port city of the Popes: Ancona in the early modern age
- Nimrod Luz (Western Galilee College, Akko): Lived Religion as Urban Citizenship: A View from Acre
- Carmen González Guttiérez (Max Weber Centre, University of Erfurt): Islam encounters Late Antiquity: Urban religious spaces in al-Andalus in the Early Middle Ages
- Miriam Benfatto (Universita’ di Bologna): Shaping the sacred and the profane: The Council of Trent on cityscape and sacred spaces